By Matt Myers
For almost 40 minutes Wednesday’s Middle school soccer match between T.A. Dugger (1-0) and the Church Hill Panthers (0-1) was a defensive struggle, and then the youngest Cyclone of them all helped his team blow the doors off everything.
Speedy striker Hunter Vines struck for one goal at the 22-minute mark and headed in another off a beautiful corner kick by forward Isaac “The Money Man” Money at the 12-minute mark to color the contest orange and black. The 3-1 win garnered the Jr. Cyclones a conference ‘W’ as well as the satisfaction of their head coach.
“I am impressed with our guys effort overall. Although we were a bit sluggish out of the gate, our guys really adhered to the second half adjustments we talked about making,” said a smiling Michelle Butler after her team’s victory. “It was very nice to see our guys really respond to the momentum that Hunter got rolling with that first score. Our conditioning also really helped us to carry that momentum all the way to the end.”
When asked about the season going forward, Butler maintained her cool collectiveness, and stressed that the Jr. Cyclones work is just beginning although they were able to capture the victory out of the gate.
“It is really good to get a win to start, but we have to continue to push towards playing a complete game. I think the guys realized that we could have made it a lot easier on ourselves if we can be strong at the start of games.”
Although it was the Jr. Cyclones that would have the last word as far as the scoreboard was concerned, the Panthers made it clear from the outset that they did not travel to ‘Betsy simply for the scenic drive. Forwards Caleb Shelton (the Panthers’ lone scorer), and Tony Carvagno spearheaded a steady attack that kept the ball on the Jr. Cyclones side of the field for most of the first half. Again and again. though, Panther strikes sailed into the sure hands of Jr. Cyclone Goalkeeper Noah Lovelace, and as a result the score stood deadlocked at 0-0 at the intermission.
The second half saw a much more determined Jr. Cyclone team take the field, and almost immediately they set about capturing the games floating momentum. Forwards Stephen Willson and Dante Callahan began exploting gaps in the Panther defense with good passing and on ball movement.
Eight minutes in, Vines turned one of those gaps into a gaping hole.
After a perfectly triggered in bounds throw by Money that fell right into Vines’ strike line along the east boundary, the 6th grader split two Panther defenders before they even had time to see him and fired a pristine missile passed the diving Goalkeeper for the games first tally.
The score seemed to exhilarate the Cyclones, perhaps a little too much. As smiles and high fives abounded, the Panthers went back to work. Two possessions later Forward Caleb Shelton exploited his own crack in the Cyclone defense as he powered past the Jr. Cyclones for a shot on goal that served to tie the game at 1-1.
The goal seemed to be the shot in the arm the Jr. Cyclones had been looking for as they continued to build off their early second half success.
Near the 12-minute mark, they exploited yet another on goal possession as Money placed a corner kick pass perfectly for Vines near the goal, the stalwart headed the leather home and this time the Jr. Cyclones had a lead they were intent on defending at all costs.
A handball in the box by the Panthers at 4:35 led to a good PK by Dylan Nordby that effectively sealed the victory for the Jr. Cyclones as the Panthers were unable to grab anymore adequate strikes on goal.